Gunsmoke incorporated one guest star after another when the show started to expand the cast beyond the principal players. However, they didn’t all receive the warmest welcome from the fan base. Gunsmoke fans “berated” guest star Morgan Woodward on the streets after making several appearances as a fictional antagonist. He couldn’t be more different in real life from the characters that he played in the Western television series and beyond.
Guest star Morgan Woodward appeared on ‘Gunsmoke’ more than most
Gunsmoke guest star Woodward appeared on the show more than nearly any other over the show’s 20-season run. There are conflicting accounts on who actually starred in the most episodes, but it depends on if you’re counting those split into two parts.
According to IMDb, Woodward starred in 18 Gunsmoke episodes as a guest star between 1957 and 1974. He typically played antagonists on the show facing off against U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon. However, Woodward starred as Bear Sanderson twice in A Game of Death … An Act of Love, which was split into two parts. The character actor also returned as Sheriff Abel Rose in the TV movie called Gunsmoke: To the Last Man.
Morgan Woodward said ‘Gunsmoke’ fans ‘berated’ him on the streets for playing the bad guy
A Newsweek article titled “The Dirty Half-Dozen – TV’s Men You Love to Hate” spoke with Woodward about his experience guest-starring on Gunsmoke. He enjoyed his work on the show, which he admittedly earned the role of for his looks. Not everybody had the look to play the bad guy that decision-makers were looking to cast.
“You won’t find many men who look like me,” Woodward said. “Fortunately, there aren’t too many of us around.”
The actor was paid between $100,000 and $200,000 per year for his work playing villains. With inflation, this comes to a grand total of around $1 million in modern currency for losing battles to the show’s protagonist, Matt.
“Maybe I’m a nice guy in real life because I’ve had my spleen on the screen,” Woodward explained. However, Gunsmoke fans had difficulty separating the real person from the characters that he played. Random women on the street “berated” the actor because of his recognizable face. After all, he’s the same person who killed Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke.
He also guest-starred on ‘Star Trek’
Woodward didn’t end his guest acting work on Gunsmoke, but also starred in other projects, such as Star Trek. He was in two episodes in 1966 and 1968, respectively. However, he’ll always remain a part of the franchise’s history because of the famous scene in question that he had the chance to star in.
In the episode titled “Dagger of the Mind,” Woodward starred as Simon van Gelder, who hops on the ship and storms the bridge. However, Spock himself stops him with the Vulcan nerve pinch, later using his Vulcan mind meld on him. This is the first time that this ability was used for the audience to see, becoming an iconic moment in television history.